Confusion or Enlightenment?

In Politics on March 7, 2008 at 7:22 pm

Communication Research, Vol. 35, No. 1, 61-87 (2008)
DOI: 10.1177/0093650207309362
© 2008 SAGE Publications

Confusion or Enlightenment?

How Exposure to Disagreement Moderates the Effects of Political Discussion and Media Use on Candidate Knowledge

Lauren Feldman University of Pennsylvania

Vincent Price

University of Pennsylvania

Recent research has yielded inconsistent findings regarding the relationship between interpersonal discussion and media use in the production of political knowledge. This study seeks to better illuminate this relationship by introducing political disagreement as an additional moderator. Using nationally representative survey data collected during the 2000 primary campaign, the authors find a negative interaction between discussion frequency and disagreement in predicting knowledge of candidate issue positions. This suggests either that the benefits of frequent discussion are stronger for those whose discussion networks are composed of like-minded others or that disagreement facilitates learning only at low levels of discussion frequency. Results also demonstrate that frequent discussion enhances the relationship between debate viewing and issue knowledge among those who reside in politically homogenous networks. In diverse networks, however, the relationship between debate viewing and issue knowledge is weaker for those who regularly talk about politics than those who talk less. Political disagreement is unassociated with knowledge of candidates’ personal backgrounds.

Key Words: political discussion • political knowledge • disagreement • news media use • debate viewing • primary campaign



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